Here lately I have had a hankering (strong restless desire/yearning) for my grandmother's southern fried chicken. The urge for her chicken has been invading my thoughts, if I focus hard enough, I can almost smell it. Almost.
I'm not kidding. I have a lot of fond memories associated with my grandmother's fried chicken. When I say 'grandmother', I mean both my maternal & paternal grandmothers. Though I could have easily have referred to my own mother or even either of my great-grandmothers, all being masters in the kitchen. It's the grandmothers though that have a way of haunting you for a lifetime.
"Please, let it be dinner time"
For goodness sakes it was torture. It's the waiting. That's why grandmother's cooking was so haunting. When you visit your great-grandmother's house, you arrived at dinner time, the table was spread. When your mother cooked, you ate. When it came to grandmothers though, they made you wait for it, die for it even. They took their time and time seemed to drag on forever before you could have a bite of the smell that was killing you.
If you were raised in the South and stayed the night with Grandma on Saturday night, chances are you went to church with her on Sunday. You knew she would be cooking a big spread. She would wake at the crack of dawn and get things started before heading to church. If you don't already know, southern Baptist preachers will keep on preaching right on up till 1 o'clock, sometimes well past. It would be a good, strong message, of course, and one you surely needed to hear. The thoughts of that chicken though, it was pretty strong too. With every vein that popped out of the pastor's forehead you'd be sitting in the pew daydreaming about grandma's fried chicken so hard you could smell it. You'd be praying somebody would 'sing him down' soon because you just knew you'd be meeting the good Lord a lot sooner than expected if he didn't wrap up soon.
"When will it ever be time to eat?"
Even the drive back to the house seemed to take forever. Once we arrived, more waiting. Gran busied herself heating everything up and cooking the side dishes. I, or my aunts, would quickly set the table and pour the drinks. There would be no air-conditioning, the house would be extra warm from all of the cooking and all of the people, adding to your pain. I would try to take a quick nap but the smells coming from the kitchen were too torturous. That's when you head outside and toss a ball around with your cousins to pass the time. Finally, it would be time to eat.
So, let's get cooking
This recipe is about Southern fried chicken like grandma used to make. Whether or not this method is healthy, is not the focus. For years, I have been cooking my chicken using as close to healthy methods as I could achieve. It was delicious but didn't taste anything like my grandmother's chicken. After speaking to my aunt, it's the Crisco. That's the key. I don't know why that didn't occur to me. I only use Crisco to season my cast iron skillets. I had forgotten that they cooked with lard and Crisco back in the day. So, let's grab that can of Crisco and do this upright. For this, you'll need a cast-iron skillet and some Crisco, no exceptions.
Ingredients - This is all you truly need for this recipe. The measurements I use are based on two good-sized chicken breasts. You will need to adjust according to how much chicken you are cooking.
2 Chicken breasts
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
1 1/3 cup Flour
The following ingredients are optional - The seasonings you use are up to you. These are the ones I used but you can add more or less to your liking. Feel free to experiment. For extra moist chicken try buttermilk.
1/4 cup Beer
1 tsp Garlic salt
1 tsp Paprika
1 Tbs of bacon grease
You'll want to start when the chicken is at room temperature. The meat cooks better and evenly when you start at room temperature. I also like to season my cast-iron skillet first and heat it up in the oven beforehand. If your skillet and meat are cold, to begin with, the cooking time will be off. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry.
In a small bowl add the egg and the beer and whisk them together. On a plate (or a baggy), add the flour and the seasonings and mix them together. Place the cast-iron skillet on the stove and add the Crisco and bacon grease. Enough so there will be about 1 inch of grease to work with. You'll want it about medium heat, it will need to be between 365 degrees Fahrenheit. Any hotter and the Crisco will start to smoke, you don't want that. Any less and your chicken will be too soggy and greasy.
While the grease heats up, dip your chicken in the egg/beer mixture. Shake off the excess and then roll it around in the flour/seasoning mixture. Shake off the excess and lay it in the skillet. Do the same with the other breast and lay it in the skillet. Don't crowd your meat.
When cooking, reduce heat to about 275 degrees Fahrenheit and turn the chicken several times during cooking until good and browned. It's done when the internal temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. It should take about 30 minutes, roughly 15 minutes for both sides. Cover the chicken while it fries, this will make it good and juicy. Then after both sides have been cooked, uncover, and cook for a few more minutes. This will help it brown and be a little crispier. The chicken will be done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the chicken is done, set it on a rack so the grease will drop off. Don't place it on a plate lined with paper towels unless you want soggy chicken. This is a good time to make gravy with the remaining drippings in the skillet. All you need to do is turn up the heat slightly between medium-high to high and add flour. Start with a tablespoon of flour and stir in more as needed. Continue to stir in the flour little by little and brown it. Once the flour has browned add milk, start with one cup and slowly add more as needed. Continue to stir, never stop stirring. Gradually, it will thicken. Add milk as needed, and continue to stir. You want a nice consistency, not too thick and not too runny. When done, pour it into a bowl. It goes great over chicken or better yet, mashed potatoes.
I wish I had some mashed potatoes to go with this but I cooked it on a whim and wasn't prepared this time around. I did, however, have some good old-fashioned cornbread, some corn, and some cooked carrots. I'm quite satisfied enough with the results. It was so freaking good! You can find my cornbread recipe at https://www.farmshedblog.com/post/beans~n~cornbread
It turned out so good and so much better than I hoped. I haven't quite reached Grandma's southern fried chicken status yet, but I look forward to this work in progress. What a delicious way to occupy my time. I hope you enjoy this recipe and maybe it will bring back some good wholesome memories for you.
Like I mentioned earlier, you can experiment with the seasonings. If you like spicy chicken, add some cayenne pepper. Other great options include oregano, basil, ginger, and thyme among others. You may know better the spices your grandma used. Mine, as it turns out, only used salt & pepper. How about that? They kept it simple and oh so good. It was the Crisco though, that set theirs apart from mine. That's what it all came down to.
Enjoy, cook on, and have a blessed day. Thanks for reading.